For the first time in my life, I locked the keys in the car. Worse, it was borrowed. All the movie tricks with wire hangers came into my mind, but none seemed like they’d work. I was stuck.
Stuck an hour away from home. With two of my kids, picking them up from camp. One eager dorm leader suggested we break the back window. It would be cheap and easy to fix, he said. He’d do it right now with his fist. Seemed like the only way out at the time.
But then one after another, God brought solutions.
There was a spare key back in Cairo, but in the apartment of our friends who let us borrow the car. I called my wife, who was at Bible study in the international church offices.
She quick asked a friend, who coincidentally was right then going to that apartment to take the house sitter to the beach for the weekend.
My wife got a ride over, and got the key. Fifteen minutes later and we would have been lost.
Back at the campsite, another father overheard the dilemma and offered us a ride home.
Once there, spare key in hand, our whole family piled into the Uber. I had planned to take the two girls to the near-to-camp expansive mall to hear about their experience. Now, we could all go, and experience their joy all at once.
And this week, Uber even offered a 30 percent discount.
An hour later we unlocked the car. Several hours later, we came home exhausted.
It could have been a disaster. But one small coincidence after the other had the handprint of God, making the day even better than we expected.
It also came with a valuable lesson to discuss with the kids: All things work together for good, to those who love God. Let’s not complain, but wait expectantly.
I believe this.
But don’t you think it is also a little crass and self-serving? One day later marked the four-year anniversary of several hundred protestors killed, as their sit-in camp was cleared by authorities.
Our nation borders a territory that is hemmed in on all sides, an open-air prison. One nation over is torn by civil war and terrorism.
Yet God arranged quick access to a spare key, so I could get home more conveniently. So I could take my whole family to a food court.
That’s a different lesson to share with the kids, isn’t it? Believe me, I tried. Their eager celebration of God’s goodness shifted into sullen confusion. Death and destruction can do that to a dinner conversation.
We talked through the possibilities. A Syrian refugee opened our favorite ice cream shop across the street, and is doing great business. God did well to work that out for good, right?
Our good, absolutely. Best and cheapest ice cream in town. But I’m sure he’d rather be back home.
The Syrians are Muslims, was one possibility. Maybe God worked things out for us because we’re Christians?
Perhaps there is some fidelity there to the verse above. But a good number of those Syrians are Christians, too. One kid shot it down more broadly. God would want to do good to everyone.
Maybe that’s it? There are bad people in the world, destroying God’s good? Certainly, but is God’s good coming? It’s hard to see, and a long time in coming.
One child recalled the Israelites in the wilderness. Already in a tough situation, God sent snakes to kill many when they grumbled. Sometimes disaster is discipline, even punishment.
True, but hardly satisfying when we consider the tragedies of another.
Sullen, and glum. There are no easy answers.
There are things we don’t understand, I told them. Even more so, Jesus foretold difficulties for those who follow him. He was not saved from the cross, and this should not be forgotten in the hope of ‘all things good’.
God has given different promises to those who suffer. He is with them in the middle of it. Many have said their fellowship with him has been closest during the harshest times of trial.
And we must not forget, in heaven, one day, all will be good. The resolution is coming.
Until then, we have a choice.
Was the car key episode simply a series of well-timed coincidences? Yeah, maybe.
Or was it the loving hand of a personal God upon his wayward creation and adopted son?
Which would you rather?
We do not need to extrapolate the universe to find his favor in the little things. But neither should we believe the universe revolves around us.
There is blessing, and there is suffering. In faith we hold that both work out for good, even when we cannot see it.
It is not my place to find the good in Syria. That is up to the Syrians. It is up to God. I can help as I am able, but I dare not interpret.
Sometimes lessons are simpler for children than adults; I don’t think this is one of them. But best they hear them now, I think, than struggle with them later. There is mystery in our faith, and it cannot be avoided forever.
But likely, a child will take it to heart much more readily than we will.
If this is the good from a neglected car key, it is sufficient. Far better than a ride home and a family night out.
But thank you, God, for those little things also. For us.
And, take care of the Syrians. Amen.